The art of curves: The greatest Playboy covers

What Playboy considered daring in the 1950s is today seen as rather tame. Nevertheless, seasoned graphic designers get sweaty palms when they discover an old issue, as early Playboy covers are small masterpieces of design…

Sixty years ago, when Hugh Hefner and his magazine took the American market by storm, the design of the cover was in a class of its own. During the late 1950s and early 1960s in particular, playful graphics and teasing little cut-outs elicited the requisite 50 cents from men who wished to see more. The creative king of Playboy from its earliest days was graphic designer and art director Art Paul, who also designed the famous bunny logo. 

An art director called Art

Paul had studied art at the Chicago Institute of Design (or ‘Chicago Bauhaus’) under professor László Moholy-Nagy, and Hugh Hefner learned about him from a mutual acquaintance. When he was looking for a graphic designer in 1953 for his own magazine project, Hefner contacted Art Paul – who came on board and stayed for 30 years. Together with local illustrators such as Leo Bellin, Roy Schnakenberg, Ed Paschke and Seymour Rosofsky, Paul developed an imaginative style that played with the bunny motif and was honoured with numerous awards over the years. At the same time, he made illustration as an art form socially acceptable – to many designers, he is celebrated as a pioneer of the ‘Illustration Liberation Movement’. 

More information about Art Paul can be found on the website of the Art Directors Club; see adcglobal.org.